Epic Systems Builds New Telehealth App With Help From Twilio

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(Bloomberg) -- Epic Systems Corp., one of the largest holders of U.S. medical records, selected software maker Twilio Inc. to help power a new telehealth service amid intensified demand for remote health care during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Twilio will provide the video-conferencing software needed to make the new application work, the San Francisco-based company said Thursday in a statement. The app lets health care providers start a video visit with a patient, review medical history and update clinical documentation. The companies didn’t disclose financial terms of the deal.

Epic has already partially rolled out the telehealth service, after spending several weeks building the tool. The speed underscores the urgency to connect doctors and patients while preventing the spread of the coronavirus. Usually, medical software can take years to develop. Epic, the maker of MyChart software, holds medical data on 60% of Americans, Twilio said. The new telehealth service has the potential to reach 250 million people.

“To the extent that there is a silver lining to this incredible human tragedy, it’s the innovation that’s been borne of necessity to look after things like health care and education,” Susan Collins, the global head of health care services at Twilio, said in an interview. “The solutions we’re building now are going to live on well past this current crisis. We’re going to wind up with a much more consumer-centric health-care system as a result.”

The novel coronavirus has infected more than 3.2 million people around the world and resulted in more than 227,000 deaths. The disease has spurred stay-at-home orders across the U.S. and in countries around the globe, making it harder for people to visit their doctors barring an emergency.

The pandemic has created a major opportunity for the still-young telehealth industry. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged the health care system to embrace virtual doctor visits to help mitigate the burden of Covid-19 on hospitals and reduce opportunities for disease transmission. The Trump administration has also relaxed certain requirements in order to make telehealth more accessible, including regulations that govern privacy in communications between doctors and patients.

“Telehealth has not been a huge area. It’s been a fringe area,” Collins said. “The first time we spoke to Epic, they mentioned they had a huge backlog of customers begging them to build this.”

The coronavirus crisis has turned Twilio’s little-used video communications software into a growth driver for the company. Educational firms are also building learning applications with the tool.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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